The Hidden American Immigration Consensus: A Conjoint Analysis of Attitudes Toward Immigrants
48 Pages Posted: 15 Jul 2012 Last revised: 6 Dec 2015
Date Written: August 30, 2012
A large literature has examined the factors that influence immigration attitudes. Yet prior tests have considered only a few immigrant attributes at a time, limiting their capacity to test several hypotheses simultaneously. This paper uses conjoint analysis to test the influence of nine randomized immigrant attributes in generating support for admission. Drawing on a two-wave, population-based panel survey, it demonstrates that Americans view educated immigrants in high-status jobs favorably, while they view those who lack plans to work, entered without authorization, come from Iraq, or do not speak English unfavorably. The results are consistent with norms-based and sociotropic explanations of immigration attitudes. Remarkably, Americans' preferences vary little with their education, partisanship, labor market position, ethnocentrism, or other attributes. Beneath partisan divisions over immigration lies a consensus about which immigrants to admit, a fact which points to limits in both theories emphasizing economic threats and those emphasizing cultural threats.
Keywords: immigration, attitudes, conjoint analysis, public opinion
JEL Classification: F22, F1, J15
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation